5 Poems by Qassim Haddad, Winner of Cairo Prize for Arabic Poetry

Earlier this week, Bahraini poet Qassim Haddad won the Cairo Prize for Arabic Poetry:

Haddad received the 200,000LE award during a ceremony at Al Hanager Art Centre at the Egyptian Opera House. This was the fifth Cairo International Forum for Poetry, and it featured some 100 poets and critics from 15 countries across the region.

There is one collection of Haddad’s work translated to English — the award-winning Chronicles of Majnun Layla and Selected Poemstranslated by Ferial Ghazoul and John Verlenden. The cycle of poems in the collection plays on the spaces between imagination, official histories, and unofficial ones. They cite historical sources, but then undermine these sources’ credibility. In the end, Qays and Layla are so subversive that even Haddad’s narrative cannot contain them. In the long prose poem “Towards It at Every Turn”:

So Qays—thanks to his madness—became free not only from the power of the sultan and the tribe, but also—and especially—from the boundaries imposed on him by the transmitters of his story. We still find him stepping out and escaping, over and over.

Ten in translation by Qassim Haddad:

Five poems by Qassim Haddad on Jehat, in Arabic and English, translated by Mohammed A. Alkhozai

“Stone” and “Words from a Young Night” on Blackbird, tr. Khaled Mattawa

An excerpt from Majnun Layla, tr. John Verlenden and Ferial Ghazoul

“All of Them,” tr. Sharif S. Elmusa and Charles Doria

“Love,” tr. Bassam Frangieh

More poems in English translation at Haddad’s website.